Wednesday morning, hours before the Bulls applied the brakes to the Heat’s run at history, Tom Thibodeau got asked if he had mentioned their 27-game win streak.
“What streak?” Thibodeau said.
Indeed, on a night where the only Derrick Rose appearance came via a bobblehead doll and Joakim Noah, Richard Hamilton and Marco Belinelli also sat with injuries, the Bulls made history disappear.
The second-longest winning streak in North American major professional sports league history is over thanks to a 101-97 victory that, out of nowhere, rekindled talk of a lengthy Bulls’ postseason run.
Heat, meet grit.
Luol Deng scored 28 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter and four 3-pointers. Jimmy Butler provided big play after big play to spark the Bulls, finishing with 17 points and a career-high five assists. And Carlos Boozer added 21 points and 17 rebounds on a night the Bulls never backed down.
When LeBron James tried to smash through a Boozer screen with 3 minutes, 52 seconds left, Boozer held his ground and James, who had been pounded all night on drives, drew a flagrant-one foul.
Minutes later, Kirk Hinrich ripped a rebound out of Chris Bosh’s hands and fed Taj Gibson for a jumper and nine-point lead at the other end.
James led the Heat with 32 points, but Thibodeau’s defensive schemes turned him into a scorer more than his preferred role of facilitator
“It would’ve been perfect if I was playing, but guess not,” Rose said of his bobblehead night.
Turns out, the Bulls didn’t need him, even though Dwyane Wade returned from missing two games with a sore knee.
The Bulls came out intense and physical with everything clicking. They sank their first four shots and jumped to a 13-2 lead. Udonis Haslem sat with three fouls in the first 5:15. Wade drew a technical. Nate Robinson banked in a circus shot near the first-quarter buzzer.
The Bulls led 55-46 at halftime but momentum appeared to turn for good quickly early in the third. James slammed home an alley-oop from Wade and then viciously converted a Hinrich turnover with a tomahawk dunk.
As the Bulls continued to struggle offensively, Shane Battier’s 3-pointer with 4:30 left capped a three-point possession and gave the Heat their first lead at 59-58.
But Butler woke the crowd with an acrobatic alley-oop from Deng over Bosh that will replayed for days. Earlier, Butler had epitomized the Bulls’ hustling mindset by chasing down Wade on a breakaway and delivering a hard foul.
And just like that, the Heat’s run ended to chants of “End the streak!” and “Beat the Heat!” from the faithful.
“I mean, everyone is aware,” Thibodeau said of the streak. “But we’re more concerned about them being the defending champion. Everyone is chasing them. You’re chasing them regardless of whether there is a streak or no streak
“They won it last year so until someone can beat them, that’s the team everyone is chasing.”
For one night, the Bulls caught them.
Chicago Tribune Reporting